On April 10th, 2022, Pakistan’s military establishment ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Imran Khan through coercion, intimidation, and bribery. They then installed a compliant, corrupt, and unscrupulous group into office.
Since then, Pakistan has descended into fascism, facing the most severe crackdown on fundamental human rights and civil liberties in its 75-year history. Never before in Pakistan’s history has such barbarism been witnessed, as is currently being inflicted upon civilians, journalists, and politicians. The resulting violence and enforced abductions have entirely eroded the guarantees to life and liberty as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), along with dozens of international human rights covenants to which Pakistan is a signatory, as well as the safeguards and fundamental rights outlined in the Constitution of Pakistan.
Civilians, peaceful protesters, unarmed political activists, men, women, children, senior citizens, youth, and the differently-abled have all been subjected to unprecedented barbarism. This has occurred despite Pakistan being a signatory to the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Convention Against Genocide under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) of the European Union.
An event was held at the US Congress in Washington DC on Jul 26th to discuss the human rights situation in Pakistan.
Chairman Imran Khan's Focal Person for… pic.twitter.com/2yCg8vwCnY
— PTI USA Official (@PTIOfficialUSA) July 27, 2023
There is a violent crackdown on women from all walks of life, especially those who are less affluent. These newly enfranchised women’s only “crime” has been engaging in politics and participating in peaceful protests in support of Pakistan’s largest political party, PTI. They have been unlawfully imprisoned and are enduring inhumane conditions, including instances of sexual abuse. No morally upright individual would ever want to witness a recurrence of the Holocaust or another situation akin to Rwanda.
Journalists in Pakistan have faced a brutal crackdown. Any journalist who does not align with the views of the military establishment is susceptible to abduction, torture, and even homicide. Numerous frontline journalists, such as Moeed Pirzada, Shaheen Sehbai, Sabir Shakir, and Wajahat Khan, are among those who have fled the country in order to preserve their lives and are now confronted with treason charges. Pakistan’s most prominent investigative journalist with the largest following, Arshad Sharif, was not as fortunate. Despite leaving the country to ensure his safety, he was pursued and fatally shot in Kenya.
Some of the most outspoken journalists have been abducted and silenced. Imran Riaz Khan was apprehended on May 11 at Sialkot airport and has been unaccounted for since. Daniel Bastard from the France-based international watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), indicated that the organization had received information from “confidential diplomatic sources” suggesting that the missing journalist had been subjected to torture and “might even have died while in custody.”
— Congressman Brad Sherman (@BradSherman) April 28, 2023
Pakistan’s largest political party, PTI, has been systematically targeted for victimization. The Chairman of PTI, Imran Khan, has faced approximately 200 charges and has received a 3-year prison sentence along with a 5-year ban from political activities based on frivolous and fabricated allegations. Two assassination attempts have been made on his life, resulting in four bullet wounds sustained during a public political rally.
Imran Khan and PTI have been entirely banned from media coverage, to the extent that even mentioning his name in print or electronic media is prohibited. More than 10,000 PTI workers have been imprisoned for over 90 days without undergoing any trial. Countless leaders from the first and second tiers of PTI have been arrested, enduring inhumane conditions and torture.
Female PTI leaders and workers have faced sexual harassment and intimidation for an extended period of over 3 months. Disturbingly, six female civilian protesters, who had been arrested and detained without bail despite having no criminal records, have disappeared without any means of recourse. Zille Shah, a young PTI supporter with autism, was abducted by intelligence agencies during a peaceful protest. His lifeless body was later found dumped on the street. Post-mortem examinations revealed evidence of torture in 34 areas of his body, including severe damage to his genitals.
The military establishment in Pakistan has announced its intention to prosecute more than 100 politicians, including members of the national assembly, and the chairman of PTI – the most popular political party with over 70% support from the people of Pakistan – Imran Khan, in military courts. This action directly contravenes Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Pakistan has ratified. This article guarantees the right to a trial before a “competent, independent, and impartial tribunal established by law.” Military courts lack the necessary due process and fair trial guarantees required for civilians. This situation results in heightened intimidation of opposition parties and a diminished political freedom, effectively suppressing open discourse and dissent.
Subjecting political workers to military court proceedings infringes upon their fundamental rights, as outlined in the constitution, including the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression.
The Official Secrets Amendment Act 2023 and the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 2023 were swiftly introduced and passed by both the upper and lower houses of Parliament, with limited debate and a scant presence of lawmakers. However, following the announcement that the bills had been signed by the President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi, he clarified that he had not, in fact, signed the bills and had returned them to the Parliament. This sequence of events has raised questions about the influence of the military establishment on Pakistan’s legislative process.
As God is my witness, I did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 as I disagreed with these laws. I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned within stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that…
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) August 20, 2023
It is important to mention here that the two draconian bills aim to enhance military control over both civilians and retired military officials in the country.
The shoddy treatment of the Official Secret Act 2023 and the Army Act Amendment Bill 2023 in the National Assembly and the Senate was already troubling. The silence maintained so far on the amended Official Secret Act by the PPP, PML-N, and JUI-F leadership makes President Arif…
— Kamran Khan (@AajKamranKhan) August 20, 2023
There are only two possible paths forwards from here for a nuclear armed Pakistan: a bloody Iran like revolution; or a free and fair elections to allow people choose their rulers. The only sane option to take Pakistan out of this abyss is free and fair elections, without any electoral engineering or rigging.
Watch Dr. Moeed Pirzada explain the current crisis while speaking at University of Southern Florida.